Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history

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Qutub Minar affirms these lines by Saheena Ahmed: “Well, somethings are meant to be broken, regardless of how beautifully they were sculptured.” I saw her some six years back; she had not changed; she was the same since I saw her last. I hastened my steps, eager to look at her from close quarters and once again swept off my feet by her grace and beauty. Ah! A Sunday will be well spent.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
Black & White photo of Qutub

Well, ogling at the tower, I realised the city swank of seeing many dynasties clash on ideological and other beliefs. I am talking about 1993, declared UNESCO World Heritage Site made out of bricks and is the towering building in the world – Qutub Minar. The tower’s height is 72.5 meters. And this grand monument was built on the debris and ruins of many structures. It makes sense because Qutub Minar was created to honour the victory achieved by the new dynasty over the old one. 

The history of the Qutub Minar is unprecedented as it involves two different dynasties. Moreover, the Minaret of Jam inspired Qutub Minar architecture, which is located in Afghanistan. In the 12th century, India was once ruled by Muhammed Ghori. Qutub-Ud-Din Aibak was a general in Muhammed Ghori’s army. And he was in charge of the Ghurid territories in north India. 

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
The Ruins of the Mosque

However, after the death of Muhammed Ghori, Aibak formed an independent kingdom under Mamluk Dynasty, later known as Delhi Sultanate, whose first ruler was Aibak. Being the first-ever Muslim ruler in India, he started the construction of Qutub Minar. He completed the ground floor of this five-storeyed monument by 1192. At the same time, Qutub Ud Din Aibak’s successor and his son-in-law built the following three stories of Qutub Minar in 1220. 


As per the historian, Qutub Minar’s top story was destroyed by a fierce lightning strike in 1369. Feroz Shah Tughlaq, then ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty, repaired the damaged floor while adding a deck to the Minar. Even Sher Shah Suri, during his significant period of kingship, added another gateway to the Qutub Minar. In 1505 another earthquake stuck the beautiful minaret, and Sikandar Lodi repaired the tower again.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
Remains of Lost History

Since rulers from different dynasties built the minaret, the Qutub Minar architecture will have other influences at every level. Along with some local cultural-artistic adoptions, like looped bells, garlands and lotus borders carved in the walls and ceilings of the building. Those inscriptions also reveal much information about the restoration and repair work done under the kingship of Sikandar Lodi and Firoz Shah Tughlaq.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
Qutub Minar

There is also a difference of opinion on the name of the minaret. Some say it was named after Qutb Ud Din Aibak only, while others say it is labelled after the name of a renowned Sufi saint Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. Apart from differences of opinion, there are a few stories of Qutub Minar. Several other significant monuments are located within the Qutub Complex surrounding the Qutub Minar. 


The Indo-Islamic architecture has five different stories, all superimposed and tapering. There are many other inscriptions in Parso-Arabic and Nagari characters inscribed in the various sections of the Minar. However, the last three stories of the minor comprise columns of pale red sandstone or fluted cylinder-shaped shafts separated by flanges and storeyed balconies. And Muqarnas corbels form was carried out on all.

The evening View

I looked at the fourth column of the Minar. It is made up of marble and was unornamented. At the same time, the fifth column is made of red sandstone and marble, where the flanges comprise a darker red-looking sandstone throughout the constructed unit. And all were engraved with Quranic texts and other decorative architectural ornaments.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
Detailed inscription on the story

Moreover, it has a beautifully constructed spiral-shaped tower with a staircase of 379 stars. And is also slightly vertically tilted, about 65 centimetres, within the safe limit.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

It lay at the foot of the Minar and was constructed by Qutb-Ud-din Aibak. The Mosque was built to commemorate his victories over the Rajput clans. The construction started in 1193. Though today the Mosque though lies in ruins. But once it used to be the earliest known constructed Mosque. The original plans of the Mosque had a vast courtyard and a prayer hall to match the yard. And it even boasts of grey colonnades made out of greystones.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
The three central arches of the Mosque

The Mosque has five bays, three on the east and the other two on the north & south of the Mosque. The mosque’smosque’s central arch is ogee shaped, more prominent than its side arches. And all the screens have Quranic inscriptions and flower patterns inscribed on them.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
Mandala at the entrance

Interestingly, the Minar lies west of the mosque’smosque’s main entrance, and the Iron Pillar is just in front of it.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
The entrance

Though the mosque’smosque’s construction continued even after the death of Aibak, I saw a lot of addition by Ilttimush from 1210 to 1220 A.D.- like the cloisters to the central courtyard stone screen between the courtyard and the prayer hall. He expanded the prayer hall by building three more arches reflecting Islamic influence.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history

Additional construction of the Mosque continued even after the end of the Slave dynasty; the courtyard entrance has mandapa-shaped domes influenced by temples. Or the Alai Darwaza constructed by Alauddin Khalji during his reign in 1300. Though I could only see the ruins of magnificent architecture, many of its inscriptions, ornamental details, pillars, and gateways are preserved.

Iron Pillar

A mysterious metallurgical creation by King Chandragupta II Vikramaditya of the Gupta Dynasty, in 375 to 410 A.D. This pillar was erected before a Vishnu Temple in Udayagiri in 402 A.D. And there needs to be concrete information as to when or why it was shifted. But been assumed that Anangpal, in the 10th century C.E. moved the pillar from Udaigiri to its current location. Interesting! 

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
Iron Pillar

It is said that the approx weight of the pillar is 5 tonnes, while the ornamental bell on the post is about 646 kg. There are Sanskrit inscriptions embedded on the pillar. Moreover, there is a deep socket on the top of the pillar. It’s assumed to be a flagpole. But I was amused that the post had not rusted over a thousand years. That’s mysterious!

Alai Darwaza 

I then walked to the Alai Darwaza, the southern entrance to Qutub Minar. Ala-Ud-din Khalji, the second Sultan of the Khilji dynasty, constructed the domed gateway of red sandstone decorated with inlaid white marble. 

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
Alai Darwaza

Moreover, Alai Darwaza is the first monument constructed on Islamic architectural principles like the Naskh script, latticed stone screens, and other inscriptions on the gateway. It even has pointed arches, the spearhead of fringes and further beautification that added to the grace of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque to which it served as the entrance.

Tomb of Adham Khan

Adham Khan was Maham Anga’s son, the wet nurse of Akbar. Thus making Adham his milk brother, the milk brother of the Mughal King Akhbar, the third ruler of the Mughal dynasty. He was a general in the Mughal army. 

Tomb of Adam Khan

However, Adham Khan murdered Akbar’s favourite general, Ataga Khan. And Akhbar ordered Adham Khan’s execution by throwing him out of a window from the Agra fort. This tomb shows up right before you enter the town of Mehrauli, and today, now part of the Qutub complex.

Tomb of Iltutmish

The third of the Mamluk kings, Shams Ud-Din Iltutmish, was the first Muslim sovereign to rule Delhi. He was the son-in-law of Qutb Ud Din Aibak. And his tomb was built in 1235 A.D. by Iltutmish himself—a landmark in Indo-Islamic architecture. And was discovered in 1914 excavation by the ASI.

The ornamentation on the walls

Well, it is a 9 mt. Sq. the central chamber has some squinches in itself. It also suggested the presence of a dome that must have collapsed over time which Feroz Shah Tughlaq later replaced.

Tomb of Ilttimush

A white marble cenotaph is placed on a raised platform around which the structure lies. But the chamber has ornate carvings, which can be seen inside and outside the tomb. The carvings are inscriptions in Kufi, Naskh characters and geometric and arabesque patterns carved out in Saracenic tradition.

Inscription in Naksh

I noticed that the western wall of the chamber’s interior has three Mirabs. The central one is a prayer Mirab, while the other two are decorated with marble. Numerous Indo-Islamic architectural amalgamations include bell and chain, lotus, diamond emblems, tassels, etc.

Tomb of Imam Zamin

It is a 16th-century construction after the initial construction of the Qutub Minar. It houses the remains of Mohammad Ali, popularly known as Imam Zamin, who built it himself during the reign of King Humayun.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
Tomb of Imam Zamin

Imam Zamin was an educated Islamic cleric who migrated from Turkestan during the reign of Sikandar Lodi. Interestingly, this tomb has no connection with other monuments in the complex.

Ala-Ud-din Khalji’s tomb and Madrasa

Another tomb in the complex is located at the back end, just towards the southwest of the Mosque. It’s an L-shaped unit where the tomb of Alauddin Khalji lies.

L Shaped Tomb of Khilji

Alauddin was the second Sultan of the Khalji dynasty and ruled from 1296 to 1316. And his tomb also dates back to about 1316 A.D., surrounded by Madarasa, which Alauddin himself built.

Allaudin Khilji’s tomb

The tomb is in ruins which are located in the central room of the building. But the is two small room which is directly connected to the grave through two small passages on either side that are intact. Many madrasa rooms are still in one piece, and some have been restored over time. 

Madrasa around the tomb

The archaeologist’s tomb’s remains suggest the existence of an open courtyard just to the west and south of the building. A probability of seven rooms to the west of the tomb, two of which had domes and windows. And a room in the north served as an entrance to the building.

Alai Minar of Khalji

Alauddin Khalji started the construction in 1311 A.D., an ambitious project where he wanted to rival the Qutub Minar. Only the core ground story of Alai Minar was constructed, which is 24.5 meters high(80 feet). He wished to build a tower twice as high as the Qutub Minar in proportion to the enlarged Mosque.

Alai Minar

Unfortunately, construction was utterly abandoned after his death. All of Alauddin Khalji’s successors of the Khalji dynasty were absent from their structure. The first story of the Minar is an incomplete giant rubble masonry core, but still intact. Amir Khusrau, a very well-noted Sufi poet and a saint, has spoken about Alai Minar in his work Tarikh-i-Alai.

Smith Folly

Before bidding goodbye, I took a last walk of the complex and saw the pillared cupola known as ‘Smith’s Folly ‘.The restoration could have been done better during the 19th century, & it was visible. This pillared cupola was built post the second earthquake.

Smith Folly

Qutub Minar faced two significant earthquakes in 1505, the second on 1st September 1803. Sikander Lodi did the first restoration. In contrast, the double repair was done in 1828 under the orders of the Governor-General Field Marshal Viscount Hardinge. Post that, Qutub Minar was under scrutiny when in 1981.

Qutub Minar: A tall & magnificent era of history
Qutub Minar

I finally admired the tallest architecture once again, which has a lot of cultural heritage and deep historical background. 


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